“Chase relationships, not job openings.” This is a mantra I share with everyone, including boomers, when it comes to networking.
Power Boosting your Job Search
The paradigm is shifting – job hunting is no longer a resume game. In the digital age, we have to be more proactive about nurturing a network of relationships to get us in the door before a job opening is even posted.
Trying to land a job without a pre-existing network today is like trying to win a war without an army. Being part of an active network significantly increases your chances of landing a job, but also landing the best job for you.
Activating your Network
What is an active network? It goes beyond your contact list or address book, Facebook friends, former colleagues, college classmates, or the members of your union, guild, or professional association. Knowing someone does not always equate to having an active relationship with them.
Building a strong active network requires you to be thoughtful and consider who best to advance your career goals. Consider who can help you get a job and also maintain a successful job. Much like all relationships, an active network requires nurture – it’s a two-way street of giving and receiving.
The first step is to focus on being a giver – a giver of encouragement, expertise, empathy, insight, support, and information. If you are perceived as a giver of time, energy, knowledge, and other resources, people will look forward to hearing from you because you will usually be offering them something: an article you just read, a valuable experience you wanted to share, and they’ll enjoy connecting with you. Giving builds trust and positions you positively. You will deliver the best impression with your network by giving, not by leading with your need.
It can be challenging, but it’s worth the investment. Over time, your active network will reciprocate with job leads and often smart connections. But there’s more. They will also often pre-sell you for that amazing new job opportunity. Therefore, not only does your network become an information and referral source, but they also become your cheerleading squad. It’s a double win-win for you.
Where to begin
Start by dividing all the contacts in your database into three groups—Platinum, Gold, and Silver.
- Your Platinum group is your smallest group. It may include only a handful of people—but they are vitally important. They are your de facto “board of directors,” the people with whom you are closest and with whom you let your hair down and can be vulnerable. They are people with who you connect with on your career goals and practice your job interview skills. They are compassionate, encouraging, and have your best interests at heart.
- Your Gold group are those with whom you have a good working relationship—people who are, at the very least, “in your corner.” They are like-minded individuals who may or may not work in the same field as you. You may have done business with them as a coworker, client, or vendor. You may know them socially or through your community activities.
- Your Silver group is the largest, most general group. These are the people you’ve met who have the potential to be members of your Gold group. They are people whose business cards you have collected at networking events, conferences, or business meetings; friends of friends who have asked to join your network on LinkedIn; colleagues present or former whom you barely know but whom you could call or email based on shared connections.
In this methodology, networking contacts start out as Silver, progress to Gold, and in a few special cases wind up as Platinum. Your life and career are fluid, so your network will be, too. Your Gold and Platinum contacts may change when you get a new job or start a new business and need to develop a different set of resources. Equally as important, you will also participate as a Silver, Gold, or Platinum member of other people’s networks.
This will help you find and develop relationships with people who think as you do, appreciate what you have to offer, are grateful for the assistance and support you provide for them, and are willing to connect you to job openings, people who can hire you, or people who will help you launch your own business. Building and continually nurturing these relationships is the best way of bypassing the frustrating process of chasing after job postings and never getting a response.
In today’s marketplace, successfully activating your network is the best strategy to quickly find not only a job but the job that is best suited for you.